Stand-up paddleboarding (also known as stand-up paddle-surfing and SUP) is a relatively new water sport to the Turks and Caicos and is rapidly gaining in popularity. The theory of paddleboarding is quite simple: stand on a large surf-style board and propel yourself with a long handled single bladed paddle.
Paddleboarding is easy to master and the only equipment needed is a purpose made board and a long handled paddle. It’s an easy sport to get the hang of and most beginners will be cruising around after about a half hour of practice. A basic level of fitness and balance is required to paddleboard, and the sport is generally suitable for anyone over about 10 or 12.
As with all water sports, the weather will greatly affect your paddleboarding experience. Generally, it’s most pleasant to paddleboard in calm, windless conditions. Kayaks tend to be better in choppy and windy conditions, and for long distance travel, so choose the right tool for the job. For paddleboard wave riding, smooth, rolling waves are best.
Flat Water Paddling and Eco-Tours
One of the main attractions of paddleboards over kayaks and other watercraft is the ability to get a much better view of the surrounding sea life due to the greater height over the water. Paddleboarding is also quiet and doesn’t cause much water disturbance, so animals aren't likely to be scared off. For these reasons, paddleboarding is probably the best way to experience the environment of the mangrove wetlands and shallows of the Turks and Caicos. In the sheltered waterways, it’s common to see turtles, small lemon sharks, bonefish, conch, and pufferfish, along with the abundant birdlife.
Open water cruising spots are found all around Providenciales, with the most popular being off the north and northeast coast. It’s a good idea to pay attention to wind direction, as it’s much easier to paddle with the wind than against it! It makes sense to start your journey traveling upwind, and then enjoy the easier return trip.
Although quite popular in some countries, paddleboard wave riding hasn't really caught on in the Turks and Caicos for the same reason surfing hasn't: the conditions are generally too calm here!
When the surf is up, the best wave riding spots are generally found off the barrier reef on the north coast of Providenciales. However, as the reef is about a mile offshore, it’s not really easy or safe for someone new to the area to try to venture out. If you have an interest in wave riding, it’s best to contact one of the local providers about locations, conditions, and boating to appropriate spots.
Most of the paddleboarding in the Turks and Caicos is done on Grace Bay, but this is obviously because most of the hotels and resorts are located in this district. Grace Bay is a good area for open water cruising, but doesn’t have the wildlife found in the sheltered wetlands.
The mangrove wetlands of the Princess Alexandra Nature Reserve to the east of Providenciales are a great location for eco-tours. The sheltered areas inside the mangroves are usually calm, and wildlife is abundant. Water sport provider Big Blue Collective is located nearby and offers rentals and guided tours through the area, so this is the easiest wetland to access by paddleboard.
Chalk Sound National Park is another interesting place to explore. This area is a 3.5-mile (5.6 km) long inland shallow body of water that’s connected to the ocean by a small inlet. Hundreds of small scenic rocky islands are found here, along with the occasional bonefish and barracuda. Be aware of the direction of the wind as it can be hard to work your way back to your starting point at this location on breezy days.
Frenchman's Creek and Pigeon Pond Nature Reserve on the west coast of Providenciales can be an excellent place to explore. This national park is a network of mangrove trees and shallows and is an excellent location to see juvenile sharks and brown pelicans. Frenchman’s Creek is a relatively remote area with a higher risk of crime than more populated areas. See Safety and Crime for more information.
There are a large number of small cays and rocks accessible from Providenciales as well.
There are quite a few options for obtaining paddleboarding equipment on Providenciales. For those staying at one of the main resorts, complimentary gear is often available to guests. Several local businesses also rent equipment and provide guided eco-tours. See below for details.